Call for Papers (english)

Tagung „Was ist Grammatikalität?“
Conference “What is grammaticality?“


Eleonore Schmitt und Annika Vieregge, Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg

You can download the Call for Papers as a PDF file(220.1 KB).



“What is grammaticality?”

The workshop provides a forum for recent studies on grammaticality and aims to reflect which methods are suitable to study grammaticality empirically. Grammaticality is defined broadly for the purposes of the workshop: We are both interested in the boundaries of language systems and in the question of how speakers perceive grammaticality.

The question of whether a form is grammatical or not, or how grammatical it is, is more complex than one might think at first glance. Grammaticality needs to be determined against the backdrop of one (or several) language system(s). Hence, grammaticality implicitly includes several questions: What is a language system? What is possible in a language system? How is a language system structured? These questions are also important for grammar writing, which has developed an increased focus on the status of variants (Hennig 2017). Hence, the question “What is grammaticality?” is closely related to the question “What is a language system?” Thus, the interaction between grammaticality and acceptability needs to be addressed (Hundt 2005; Köpcke 2011) as well as the question on which factors influence whether grammatical variants exist (Bybee 2005, 2011). Several studies already examined cases of variation (for instance Nowak 2015 on strong and weak verbs in German), but they are rarely linked to the question whether a certain form is a variant or an ungrammatical structure. In addition, the connection between grammaticality and optionality has to be taken into account as well as the status of optional structures as grammatical or lexical variants. Additionally, questions arise when grammaticality is connected with language acquisition and multilingualism: How can utterances of language learners be evaluated with regard to grammaticality? Is a structure ungrammatical if the structure is not part of a certain language system but of another system that a speaker knows as well? Here, the question arises whether grammaticality needs to be evaluated on an individual level.

The first area of interest of the conference deals with these questions from a cognitive and usage-based perspective. Additionally, the following questions can be addressed:

  • How can grammaticality and language systems be determined theoretically?
  • Which methods can be used to test theoretical approaches to grammaticality and language systems?
  • How do language change and grammaticality relate to each other? Can every form become grammatical through language change?
  • How do grammaticality and the knowledge of several language systems interact?
  • How can grammaticality and language acquisition interact?
  • Can the concept of grammaticality be transferred to lexical phenomena like idiomatic phrases and metaphors?

The second focus of interest is the way speakers conceptualize grammaticality. Here, labels like correct or incorrect grammar usually do not have the function of determining the limits of language systems from a descriptive point of view, but are used to stigmatize certain language phenomena and people using these forms (cf. Arendt/Kiesendahl 2015: 123). Many examples show that the distinction between “right” and “wrong” is not determined by factors like frequency but rather based on social-symbolic ascriptions and the standard ideology (cf. Milroy 2007: 134–135; Silverstein 2017: 141). This can be seen for speech phenomena like the split infinitive and double negation in English: these forms are associated with colloquial speech and are often regarded as wrong (cf. Ebner 2018: 223; Tieken-Boon van Ostade 2018: 193). Regarding language ideologies on grammaticality, the following questions can be addressed:

  • Which functions do terms like ungrammatical serve in metapragmatic discourse?
  • How do grammaticality and appropriateness interact? Is something that is seen as ungrammatical also seen as inappropriate and vice versa?
  • Which concept of language norms do language users have?
  • (How) do laypeople use and interpret descriptive grammars?
  • How are language systems conceptualized by language users?


Keywords: cognitive linguistics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, language variation, first language acquisition, multilingualism, dialectology, language ideologies

Conference languages will be English and German.

Call Deadline: 31st of December 2018, feedback will be given until the 28th of February 2019.

We are looking forward to abstracts addressing the questions mentioned above. Abstracts should have a maximum length of 300 words and be sent as a PDF file towig.bagl(at)





Arendt, Birte/Kiesendahl, Jana (2015): Sprachkritische Äußerungen in Kommentarforen - Entwurf des Forschungsfeldes "Kritiklinguistik". In: Niehr, Thomas (ed.): Sprachwissenschaft und Sprachkritik. Bremen: Hempen, 101–130.

Bybee, Joan L. (1985): Morphology. A study of the relation between meaning and form. Amsterdam, Philadelphia: J. Benjamins.

Bybee, Joan L. (2011): Language, use and cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Davies, Winifred/Langer, Nils (2006): The Making of Bad Language. Lay Linguistic Stigmatisations in German: Past and Present. Frankfurt a. M.: Lang.

Ebner, Carmen (2018): Concepts of Correctness and Acceptability in British English. Exploring Attitudes of Lay People. In: Pillière, Linda (ed.): Standardising English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 213–233.

Hennig, Mathilde (2017): Grammatik und Variation im Spannungsfeld von Sprachwissenschaft und öffentlicher Sprachreflexion. In: Konopka, Marek; Wöllstein, Angelika (eds.): Grammatische Variation. Empirische Zugänge und theoretische Modellierung. Berlin: de Gruyter, 23-46.

Hundt, Markus (2005): Grammatikalität - Akzeptabilität - Sprachnorm. Zum Verhältnis von Korpuslinguistik und Grammatikalitätsurteilen. In: Lenz, Friedrich; Schierholz, Stefan J. (eds.):  Corpuslinguistik in Lexik und Grammatik. Tübingen: Stauffenburg,15-40.

Köpcke, Klaus-Michael (2011): Grammatikalität und Akzeptabilität - Zwei für den Grammatikunterricht zentrale Begriffe verstehen lernen. In: Köpcke, Klaus-Michael; Ziegler, Arne (eds.): Grammatik - Lehren, Lernen, Verstehen. Zugänge zur Grammatik des Gegenwartsdeutschen. Berlin: de Gruyter, 287-304.

Langer, Nils (2013): Sprachkritik und Sprachnormen - regionale, mediale und soziale Differenzierungen. In: Mitteilungen des Deutschen Germanistenverbandes, 60, 4, 321-335.

Milroy, James (2007): The ideology of the standard language. In: Llamas, Carmen; Mullany, Louise; Stockwell, Peter (eds.): The routledge companion to Sociolinguistics, 133–139.

Nowak, Jessica (2015): Zur Legitimation einer 8. Ablautreihe: eine kontrastive Analyse zu ihrer Entstehung im Deutschen, Niederländischen und Luxemburgischen. Hildesheim: Olms

Silverstein, Michael (2017): Standards, Styles, and Signs of the Social Self. In: Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford, 9, 1, 134–164.

Tieken-Boon v. Ostade, Ingrid (2018): The Grammatical Margins of Class. In: Pillière, Linda (ed.): Standardising English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 193–212.